Grafenwöhr noise issues linger
GRAFENWÖHR, Germany – Residents near Grafenwöhr’s Gate 1 must learn to live with occasional noise from soldiers returning home from the town’s bar district, Army leaders say.
In the wee hours of Saturday and Sunday mornings, hundreds of soldiers walk home to on-post barracks from bars just outside the gate. Their boisterous antics often disturb residents living in family on-post housing areas on either side of the road leading to the gate.
Despite a leadership presence along the road, introduced over the summer to clamp down on the noise problem, residents still complain about the late-night sounds.
U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwöhr commander Col. Nils "Chris" Sorenson patrolled the route into town on Saturday morning.
Sorenson, who checks most of the bars frequented by U.S. soldiers in Grafenwöhr every few weeks, said closing Gate 1 at night is not an option.
Doing so would encourage soldiers to walk through off-post areas where Germans live and cause the same problem, he said.
It would also be a safety issue since the longer distance back to the barracks would result in more people driving to bars and more drunken driving, he said.
Guards at Gate 1 said Saturday about 200 soldiers walk to the bar district on weekend nights these days, down from about 500 on Friday and Saturday nights over the summer.
The road to the gate is lined with five members of a "leadership patrol" on weekend nights. Uniformed members of the patrol stop noisy or drunk soldiers on their way home and, if they are too inebriated, call their unit to drive them back to the barracks.
Off post, German police officers park outside the bars to break up fights and members of the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment Courtesy Patrol pass through to help deal with any incidents.
Despite the presence of authorities, the area sees three to five fights each weekend, according to Grafenwöhr provost marshal Lt. Col. Sean Driscol.
On-post residents were likely disturbed by a recent noisy fight right next to the gate.
And a 172nd Infantry Brigade soldier caused havoc this week, attacking someone with a broken bottle on Wednesday night and slashing a soldier with a box cutter Thursday night, he said.
However, those incidents were anomalies, Driscol said, adding that Grafenwöhr is a lot quieter and tamer than his previous postings in Stuttgart and Vicenza.
"Even in the heat of summer there weren’t big problems," he said.
Sorenson said there are plans for facilities on-post that may lead to fewer soldiers going to bars.
A new BOSS (Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers) lounge will open in April in the old commissary building. The lounge will include online gaming, alcohol sales and pool. There are also plans to renovate the Lane 25 bar at the Bowling Center, he said.